1080 and Protecting Paradise

Probably like most people I’d prefer poisons weren’t needed or used. But I use rodent poison, because rat and mice infestations make a mess, and a cat or two isn’t enough to keep them away.

The same applies to 1080.  I’d prefer it wasn’t used but the alternative, not using it, is worse.

New Zealand uses about 90% of the world supply of 1080. On the surface this sounds bad for us, but there’s a good explanation. 1080 is only effective against mammals, and much less toxic to birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians and other creatures.

Unlike just about every other country New Zealand has hardly any native mammals (a few bats) so a poison targeting mammals (especially rodents, ferrets, stoats and possums) can be a very effective way of tipping the balance back towards native species.

Deer can be affected by 1080, so it’s use annoys deer hunters.

1080 is a salt so disappears into the ecosystem very quickly.

This and more is explained in a Herald interview 1080: Finding the facts in a poisonous issue with science writer Dave Hansford, who has just published a book, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife. Potton & Burton, RRP $34.99

…I’d been writing about pest control off and on for 15 years, and it became ever-more frustrating that the same old myths and misinformation about 1080 just kept on orbiting the national conversation.

They’re all so easily debunked…

I went to the Coromandel to witness a 1080 operation for myself.

I spent a few days afterwards combing the bush looking for all the death and destruction – the slaughter of native birds etc – that activists insist happens after every drop.

I never found evidence of any, despite going off-track with a GPS and conducting long grid searches and bird call counts at different locations.


One look at the toxicology studies tells you that’s untrue: some kinds of animals are more sensitive to 1080 than others.

It’s highly toxic to mammals, and unfortunately, dogs are the most acutely susceptible.

Birds are much less so.

Some invertebrates appear to be quite sensitive to 1080, depending on circumstances, while others – like worms – seem not to be bothered at all.

The same with aquatic invertebrates.

Reptiles are very resilient to 1080, as are fish – and the Cawthron trout research proved that – and it’s practically impossible to kill amphibians.

Water dilution

Some people also worry about what 1080 does once it lands in water.

The answer to that is that it begins to dilute, very quickly – it’s a salt, after all.

So much so that water testing generally has to be done within eight hours – and ideally sooner – if it’s to find any meaningful traces at all.

Out of more than 3000 tests from waterways in 25 years, just four have found any trace of 1080 in municipal supplies, and they were all tiny fractions of Ministry of Health permissible levels.

Suited to New Zealand

There’s a good reason we use so much: every other country has native mammals it can’t risk harming with poisons, while, except for three types of bat, all our mammals are introduced pests, so 1080 might have been designed from the ground up for New Zealand use.

1080 is known to kill deer, so some hunters consider that it’s impinging on their sport.

There is no myth about 1080 that hasn’t been comprehensively debunked many times over.

The effects of 1080

I wrote it for those people who are still undecided, or conflicted about 1080, but who prefer to form their positions on the strength of evidence.

I think the most effective advocacy of all is success: look at Abel Tasman National Park, where Project Janszoon has shown very clearly, that, if you get the pest off their backs, our birds, and snails, and lizards and insects just thrive.

People saw there that the sky didn’t fall in when the Park got 1080 in 2014: but what they did see were kaka, and robins, and kakariki returned to the park.

They saw the giant snails rebound in numbers.

They heard the bellbirds.

While 1080 won’t enable the Government goal of predator free by 2050, but it is very useful in keeping control of predator numbers while other solutions are found. And it seems to be relatively safe.

In the end, the decision is very simple: we can have our forests full of native wildlife, or we can have them full of rats, stoats, possums and cats.

Birdsong, or silence.

This is why Forest & Bird support the use of 1080 – see 1080 Frequently Asked Questions

Leave a comment


  1. Pickled Possum

     /  24th October 2016

    1080 !!!! Well pete the only thing I have to say is …
    IF it was so effective WHY have we been using it for 50 YEARS and the opossum population is still growing? you only have to go back to your favourite bush you used to roam when a youngster and having to travel vast distances to see some rare flowers … oh like the northern rata Metrosideros robusta
    That dreaded Ozzie Marsupial has been killing off young native bush flowers by the millions and not forgetting our native birds.
    1080 is a Failure in my book, always has been and always will.
    What a stroke of luck America found such suckers as NZ to be the biggest users for 50 years so much so that now we put all the active ingredients together to produce this poison in NZ no more importing it in all its toxic glory.
    Will we finally wake up and say ‘Hey take a walk on the wild side suckers’ and send some of the many healthy but ‘don’t know what to do’ unemployed people into the bush armed with traps to eradicate the furry flower munching demon to the possum urupa.
    Just sounds to simple to do or are we tied to USA and its toxins forever.
    While my guitar gently weeps.

    • I guess helicopters with drop-buckets is cheaper Possum, like ‘carpet bombing’ in wars? Never mind the collateral damage …

      Actually, interestingly enough, that concept came to fruition during WW2 with the acceptance of civilian bombing, and from which also resulted the creation of aerial topdressing and agri-chemicals, a post-war ‘war on nature’ usage for the massive amounts of left-over nitrate explosive & munitions components and propellor driven aircraft.

      DDT was perhaps the proudest achievement of this mindset, used as an anti-malarial agent during WW2 and vastly as an insecticide/pesticide afterwards until “In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ was published … and a large public outcry … eventually led, in 1972, to a ban on DDT’s agricultural use in the United States. A worldwide ban on agricultural use was formalized under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, but its limited and still-controversial use in disease vector control continues …”


      Actually, those same WW2 aircraft were made of aluminium alloy and, surprise surprise, 1080, like the flouride they put in our water, is a by-product of the aluminium industry …

      “The effectiveness of sodium fluoroacetate as a rodenticide was reported in 1942 …

      In 1988 the US EPA cancelled the registration and use of 1080 as a rodenticide in the USA. The U.S. Department of the Interior registration of 1080 as a field rodenticide was withdrawn following a 1972 Executive Order prohibiting its use on federal lands.”


      You don’t gotta read it Possum … but you do gotta weep!

      • Pickled Possum

         /  24th October 2016

        Jez … Jeepers and Crikey Parti my friend Well said and like Meatloaf says …

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  24th October 2016

    Trapping will never be enough. It’s like sending people out with fly spray to eradicate wasps in NZ.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  24th October 2016

      There are nearly 48,000,000 possums in NZ. I don’t like poison, either, but something has to be done, and who knows how many there’d be without 1080.If every man, woman and child in NZ went trapping, they’d have to catch 10 each. I think.

      I don’t know how much of a pest North American opossums are (they are ugly beasts, unlike our possums)

      I had to resort to poison for the mice this year after wasting money on humane traps that caught a grand total of 0. One mouse was found floating in the dog’s water bowl. I don’t know who had the greater surprise when I unrolled a towel and found a mouse in there, snug as a bug. That one was later seen strolling along the sittingroom windowsill. He vanished ‘before my very eyes’ as I was jumping up to flip him out the window. The Scarlet Pimpermouse.

      We seek him here, we seek him there,
      The terrier seeks him everywhere-
      We know he’s somewhere in the house,
      That demmed elusive Pimpermouse.

      • Pickled Possum

         /  24th October 2016

        Morning Miss
        Yes … ‘No body likes poison’ … its a mantra people usually say before they go on to tell us why its so relevant to us in this day n age. My main point is; does it even work on possums? riddle me that one Miss … if you can.

    • Of course it will be enough Miss Kitty. It will be more than enough! Once we realize the possum pest cannot be completely irradicated – like Kalisi virus rabbit irradication, how’s that going for us? – ‘people power’ will might conceivably create sustainable fur, value-added garment and petfood industries as well.

      One problem with this scenario is Kiwis no longer understand what “value-added” means – its been too long – and anyhow there’s not enough trained workers! Labour, workers, despite being sacrificed in ‘industrial’ processes like ‘the poison drop’, are still the problem!

      Check out what the Chinese achieved using only ‘people power’ with their utterly misguided ‘Kill a Sparrow Campaign’ …


  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  24th October 2016

    48,000,000 (in round figures) possums will take some eradication. Traps would be great if they could trap enough, but they can’t or they would. Possum fibre is lovely, I haven’t had socks or gloves or anything else made of it, but I have felt them. I wouldn’t wear fur myself, but possum fur may as well be used if it can be as they are pests.

    Of course Kiwis understand ‘value added’ as a concept when it comes to possums. Possum fur and fibre are used when trappers pluck it.It’s woven and knitted into garments. But there are just too many of them for all of them to be used in this way. There is a shop quite near me that sells garments made with possum fibre (I can’t remember if there are any made of the skins) and I have seen rugs made of the skins. The only problem with the socks would be that nobody would want to wear ordinary ones again after they’d worn those !

    I hear them on my roof and saw one last week as it lolloped away. I see them squashed on the road quite often, and sometimes hear what I take to be people shooting them. But it’s just not enough…

  4. Conspiratoor

     /  24th October 2016

    I’m a reluctant convert to the damn stuff. I remember rangitoto island prior to 1990 as a desolate wilderness. 26 years later you would not recognise the place…

    “Prior to a 1990 possum eradication programme using 1080, Rangitoto Island’s pohutukawa forest was dead and dying. Rangitoto is now a blaze of healthy pohutukawa, flowering throughout the summer. Monitored bird life records show that since possums were eradicated there are 10 times more tui and silvereye living on the island. Honey production on the island pre-1080 possum control was 7kg per hive. One year later it rose to 25kg per hive, and two years later it was 50kg per hive.”

    • Pickled Possum

       /  24th October 2016

      Arvo Conspiratoor Rangitoto Island is approx 2311 hectares 5.5 kms wide now in my world it would take 2 people approx 1 week or maybe 2 to trap and shoot all of those darn possums to extinction butt poison had to be used because? … we had the goods 1080 to save 2 people from doing a great job.

      • Conspiratoor

         /  24th October 2016

        Greetings posser. Are you going to shoot the weasels, stoats and rats too? The offensive had begun well before 1990 using shall we say more traditional methods. Cheers,c

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  24th October 2016

          I read an article about it, and one passionately committed conservationist had been converted-I forget where it was, but he said that one place had gone from being overrun and silent to being alive with birdsong again.

          We’d all prefer trapping, I’m sure, but the possums are too many for this to be feasible or it would have eradicated them long ago. 48,000,000 possums ! We’re running on the spot as it is. But I am totally in favour of trapping etc as well, may as well use the fibre.

          I can never understand how animals with furry feet can make a noise on the roof as if they were wearing rugby boots !

        • Pickled Possum

           /  24th October 2016

          Well Con greetings to you to.
          Hope you are having a beaut day 😉
          Its like we used to do washing by hand and enjoy the wash day hang out, down by the river with the rest of the washer ladies, but then the ‘washing machine came along and now its chuck it all in, throw some chemicals at it and go to work … job done;
          Never minding about the ‘others’ that share our world like the fish in the sea that now has to eat poison via the drains … OH Con I could go on forever re 1080 but there is bread to make and gotta pluck the veg’s for tonight’s food also collect some snails to make a snail potion to keep said snails away from the garden.
          I cannot see how or why spraying dumping toxins and giving USA Cart Blanche over our little piece of paradise, when we have all the unemployed folk, some willing some able, to go trap all those varmints you speak of. ALL of them I have trapped poisoned and run over many a possum and I feel good bout that. Stoats weasels rats done them all in without a chemical in sight.

  5. POOR PICKLED POSSUM will never believe that 1080 is the best way to eradicate possums, no matter how much the evidence and stats show.

    • Pickled Possum

       /  24th October 2016

      OH POOr YOU SK DAVE … Where is This evidence and stats that you speak of?
      On second thoughts, never mind it’s all been done to death before and no one in power heard or even pretended to hear I am having my say just like you , and I do not think that dropping 1080 in a forest with the Hope that only the possum will eat the toxin, is a bridge to far for me to cross
      And yes Mr Skeptic I Will Never believe cause I’m Not a believer, even if I tried.


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